Dehydrated pilots become subjects of new study

pilot-cergosh.jpg Professor Stephen Legg is running a novel study on the effects of mild dehydration on complex cognition in aviation. The study has been approved by the Massey Human Ethics Committee and is being conducted in the Human Performance Laboratory in the School of Sport and Exercise with Dr Toby Mundel, in collaboration with the School of Psychology (Dr Stephen Hill) and the School of Aviation (Dr Andrew Gilbey).

Previous studies have shown that mild oxygen deprivation (hypoxia), equivalent to normal passenger cabins during commercial flight can impair aspects of complex reasoning and memory in students and aircrew. Professor Legg says ‘Since aircrew work in a very dry cabin atmosphere, it was logical to start investigating the effects of mild dehydration as well as those of mild hypoxia’.

Project officers are Anne Dubray, an intern student from the University of Paris and Luke Kendall, an intern student from Loughborough University, UK. Massey Sport and Exercise students are acting as project officers.

If you would like to volunteer to participate in the study, please contact Dr Toby Mundel. Volunteers are being asked to refrain from drinking fluids for 24 hours whilst their performance on a number of complex cognition tasks is measured using a computerised cognitive test battery (CTB).

The CTB is also being used in a parallel study of helicopter pilots by the Canadian Research Defence Research Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Future studies will use pilots rather than students and will explore the combined effects of mild hypoxia, dehydration and other stressors in the aviation environment.

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